Defining the Missionary Task in 4 Steps

What makes a missionary different than any other Christian sharing the gospel?

From Message magazine issue "Ukraine Through Missionary Eyes"

When I speak at churches, people are shocked when I tell them I’m not a missionary. Predictably, they begin to wonder, Isn’t every Christian a missionary?

We all have a responsibility to share Christ. But there is more to being a called, qualified, and sent missionary than that. The missionary task exists in four dimensions.

1. A missionary is an evangelist. The New Testament uses the word meaning “to proclaim the gospel” at least 54 times. It also uses the related words reasoning, persuading, and preaching.

This doesn’t need to happen on a soapbox in public. It often can’t. It can happen in a home or over coffee. But the good news must be told—not just suggested.

2. A missionary is a church planter. Not all missionaries personally plant or pastor new churches, but all missionaries should devote themselves to serving local churches. God’s glory is revealed through the church (Ephesians 3:10).

What is a church? A gathering of believers where the Word is preached, baptism and communion are observed, and some form of membership and discipline are practiced. Unfortunately, many churches lack these distinguishing marks. If more missionaries understood their calling to help plant churches, we would see healthier congregations worldwide.

3. A missionary is a disciple maker. Jesus’ parting command was to teach the nations to obey all his commands—not merely secure a profession of faith.

Paul was a “father” to his disciples (1 Corinthians 4:15) and was anxious for their welfare (2 Corinthians 11:28). When he left them, he made sure they could still be discipled by others—which happened in the context of local churches.

4. A missionary is a trainer of leaders. Paul appointed elders everywhere he planted a church (Acts 14:23). He told his protégé, Timothy, to train men who would train others (four generations of leadership development). On the mission field, this means that national believers must be empowered to lead when missionaries are gone.

This does not only apply to men discipling future pastors. Female missionaries training other women and teaching children are vital too. Every investment in another believer is a potential investment in a Christian leader.